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Install a Dimmer Switch

Dimmer switches allow you to set the mood, as well as help save on electricity and extend the life of your light bulbs. Learn how to install one in your home.

Tools & Materials

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Select a Dimmer Switch

First determine the type of light that will be connected to the dimmer. If you plan to use CFL bulbs, make sure the dimmer switch is rated for use with CFLs. Next determine how many lights will be connected to the dimmer and add up their wattage. For example, if you have two 75-watt lights, your total load is 150. You will need a dimmer that's rated for at least 150 watts. Finally, take note of the kind of switch you have, as this will determine the type of dimmer you need. This article is for a single-pole dimmer switch.

Install Dimmer Switch

Refer to the manufacturer's manual for step-by-step instructions and safety, warning and caution information.

When working with electricity always:

  • Turn OFF electricity at the main fuse box (or the circuit breaker box) that controls the power to the fixture or the room you’re working on.
  • Test the wires to ensure the power is OFF.
  • Place the wall switch in the OFF position.
  • All electrical connections must be in agreement with local codes. Check with local authorities to see if a permit is required.
  • If in doubt, consult a qualified electrician.
  • Do not use bulbs with wattage greater than specified for this fixture (if applicable).

Step 1

Remove the wall plate and switch mounting screws so the switch can be pulled from the wall and the wires exposed. Don't touch any of the wires until you've confirmed they aren't carrying electrical current.

Step 2

Use masking tape to mark the wires that are connected to the switch, or take a picture with your phone. These are the wires you need to connect to your new dimmer.

Step 3

Disconnect the wires by loosening the screws and unhooking the wires.

Step 4

Strip the wire insulation by 3/8 to 5/8 of an inch using a wire stripper. Double check the manufacturer's instructions to make sure you don't strip off too much insulation.

Step 5

Before installing the new dimmer make note of which side is the top and which is the bottom of the dimmer switch.

Step 6

Connect the wires. If your house has lead wires, connect them to the house wires using wire connectors and then wrap them with electrical tape. Connect the green ground wire to the copper ground wire in the box using a supplied connector. Twist it clockwise to tighten.

Step 7

Carefully tuck the wires back into the electrical box and attach the dimmer to the electrical box with the mounting screws.

Step 8

Mount the wall plate to the switch and secure it with the wall plate screws.

Step 9

Turn the power back on and test the switch. If it fails to work, turn the power off again and test once more. Double check your work for incomplete connections.